How Balanced are your Whites?

Does adjusting the white balance really make a difference? Surely modern cameras can adjust the “White Balance” just as they can adjust everything else?

Well, yes and no. Most modern cameras will correctly detect the quality of light and adjust the white balance (WB), to give you a nice grey happy-medium. But they still make some glaring mistakes! Here is an example, just to show you how much it pays to take the time to adjust the white balance manually…

I was cooking Brussels’ sprouts (don’t go “yuch!”… if they are prepared correctly they are actually very nice! overcook them and they are revolting! Anyway, back to the topic…), and I decided that I like the look of their texture so I would take a close-up.

Now, picture this: The sprouts are in the pan and the pan is on the cooker, with four halogen lights (you know… the standard spotlights most of us have in the kitchen…) right above them. We’re not talking professional studio work here, we’re talking real life!

So I took one test shot on all auto (Auto-White Balance) and it looked like this:

Now, I don’t know what setting it picked automatically, but if my sprouts looked that colour, they’d be in the bin… So I tried the camera’s standard WB settings, and found the “Fluorescent” one (2500K) to be a bit closer to life, but still not right:

Now they looked anemic and kind of purply… Not right.

So I thought it’s time to grab the manual and find out how to set the camera’s White Balance manually. It turns out that the operation is quite simple: You basically tell the camera that you want to set the WB manually, point it at something relatively grey (in my case, the aluminium casing of my cooker seemed about right) and press the shutter button. This process may be different for your camera, so please read the manual. The camera told me that the correct WB setting was 2600K. Not a millon miles away from “Fluorecent” but… worth a shot! One more try and the result looked a lot healthier…

All it took then was a little bit of adjusting the Levels and Saturation in Paint Shop Pro (or whatever other software you are using), to make my sprouts look real – and what attracted me to take the picture in the first place!

Now, compare this with the first photo here, and tell me it wasn’t worth 5 minutes extra – whether you like Brussels sprouts or not!

About George Parapadakis

Information Management specialist, ECM/BPM Strategist, Social Networking explorer, Photographer, Dad
This entry was posted in Tutorials and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How Balanced are your Whites?

  1. Jan Timmons says:

    Hi George, if you’re shooting RAW and the WB you selected is a tad off, you could still adjust the temperature, yes? (Of the photo, not those cute little sprouts in the pot 😉


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